Speed Reads

outer space

An unmanned Russian spacecraft is spinning out of control back toward Earth

Russia's Progress M-27M spacecraft launched successfully toward the International Space Station on Tuesday, but the Russian space agency said soon after that the craft entered the wrong orbit, and then quit communicating with flight controllers. The reason for the glitch is reportedly still unclear.

Progress only has enough fuel for several days — the spacecraft was originally scheduled to dock at the ISS after just six hours, delivering 2.5 tons of supplies, including oxygen, water, and spare parts, Al Jazeera America notes. If flight controllers cannot restore contact with Progress, the spaceship will continue its uncontrolled descent back toward Earth.

"It has started descending. It has nowhere else to go," an unnamed official told Agence France-Presse ahead of the space agency's official statement. "It is clear that absolutely uncontrollable reactions have begun."

Despite the setback, the six people currently aboard the ISS are reportedly in no danger of running out of supplies, and should Progress re-enter Earth's atmosphere in an uncontrolled descent, hardly any of the spacecraft will survive as it heats up and burns out during re-entry.